In 2009 when 13-year-old Victoria Owokutangaza sat Primary Seven examinations at Kabale Preparatory School in Kabale, she did not know what would happen to her education journey next.
All she knew was that she was the fourth out of five children being singlehandedly raised by her mother then a teacher at Kigezi High School. She also knew that her father, who had been the family’s major bread winner had passed away while she was in Primary Five and life had been tough after that, until a family friend offered to pay the Shs300,000 for her school fees until Primary Seven. She also knew that after Primary Seven, she wanted to join Gayaza High School. Yet she was very certain her mother could not afford it.
“From childhood, I wanted to excel at everything I did but when I sat Primary Leaving Examinations, I was not aiming at being the best. I just wanted to pass. However, when the results were out, I had got Aggregate Four! I remember my mother coming back home excited; we all were,” Owokutangaza reminisces.
But more than just excitement, the results made her cling even tighter to her dream of joining Gayaza High School, her first choice school.
“But you know how parents are with lectures. My mother started giving me one about how Gayaza is an expensive school. She started giving me options of other schools, but I told her, I am going to Gayaza! I do not know how that is going to happen, but I want to go there. I even kept telling my friends that it is where I was going,” Owokutangaza recounts.
Hope is restored
One lucky day she received news of her miracle. “My mother came back home screaming, saying that she had seen in the papers that Daily Monitor had given me a scholarship! The scholarship programme was just starting, which meant that together with other beneficiaries, we were the pioneers. It felt like this had been specifically crafted for me because God knew I needed it. It was also targeting the best students, and that year, I had been one of them!” says Owokutangaza.
She has no idea how Daily Monitor had figured her out but only that she and 24 others got on board, after a selection of three girls and three boys from different regions of the country.
“We were then hosted at Fairway Hotel for a three-day mentorship programme with career experts giving us guidance. We were greatly inspired but also had fun. In Senior One, Daily Monitor also organised a trip for us to Nairobi for a week. We visited its sister media houses, met so many people, and interacted with other children who were also on sponsorship in Kenya. This was a great experience for me,” she recalls with a big smile.
Going through school
Although the scholarship offered Shs500,000 to every student and my mother had to top up the rest, it was a heavy load off her shoulders. “That way, I joined Gayaza High School with everything I needed. We kept receiving the money but there was not much activity that brought the group together,” Owokutangaza shares.
The scholarship was supposed to take me her to Senior Four, and in her heart of hearts, she did not know what would happen next, but somehow she still held the confidence that God will provide.
“I scored Aggregate 16 at Senior Four and in the midst of not knowing what to do next, Daily Monitor shocked me by saying they would continue supporting me until Senior Six! God was just looking out for me in an indescribable way,” she says.
And miraculously, Owokutangaza completed high school. At university, her mother has been paying her tuition.
Today, 23-year-old Owukutangaza is a Bachelor’s of Community Psychology student at Makerere University, awaiting graduation. She is a worship coach at Advanced Christian Education and runs a bridal business called Studio95HP for bridal hair and makeup.
And seeing how hard her mother worked, Owokutangaza started thinking along business lines.
“While in first year, I realised that I could make money from a side hustle with the skills I had. I had previously been dressing people’s hair for free. I started charging for my services. One day I was on YouTube, and I watched a makeup video. It transformed me and determined to learn how to do it, I started making up people,” she says with obvious excitement.
Her first gig was at the Gayaza High School leavers’ party last year. Here she brought all beauty services to the girls; from hair to nails and makeup.
“A colleague and I borrowed about Shs700,000, bought everything we needed and headed to Gayaza. We were up the entire night, working on the girls,” she recounts. This paid off because they were able to make Shs1.1m, pay off the debts and save Shs400,000.
At the start, she rendered her services to whoever was interested but now Owokutangaza believes, she found her niche in bridal beauty services.
“I started enjoying my work with brides. I would see a bride with bad makeup and feel I would have done a better job. I made more research, reading and generally understanding makeup. Today, I can do bridal make up that lasts more than eight hours without retouching it,” she says proudly.
Currently, the 23-year-old gives mobile services because she does not have a permanent salon but her dream is to have a bridal parlour where brides can come in for all their bridal needs; from gym to therapy, marital counselling, make up and hair, nails, among others.
“I want to offer holistic beauty therapy; both inside and out,” Owokutangaza concludes.